“I have learned things in the dark that I could never have learned in the light, things that have saved my life over and over again so that there is only one logical conclusion. I need darkness as much as I need light.”― Barbara Brown Taylor, Learning to Walk in the Dark
Most of us could agree that the world at large experienced a rather dark place during 2020 and at the height of the COVID pandemic. We were all shunted into our homes, asked to stay, doors locked, gatherings canceled, our lives put on hold. It was an unprecedented time. I had friends working in the medical field, exhausted, scared, praying they wouldn’t get COVID and share it with their families. I had friends who believed it was a political hoax. Who won’t get vaccinated. Who believe a conspiracy theory. Most of us fell someplace in the middle. We were neither on the front lines of fighting a global illness nor sitting in the back crying fraud. We were in our homes, finding ways to work, to school our children, and maybe ourselves, desperately seeking new hobbies to occupy our time and hands. We wondered how long this would and could last. Some of us thrived. Others of us withered.
It was during this time my divorce became final. Talk about timing. I spent a lot of time in therapy that year, virtual therapy. At almost every session, my therapist would remind me that while the entire world was reeling from COVID, they weren’t all reeling from a divorce and a family dissolving. I had a hard time processing this, all of this, all the changes happening in my life and world all at once. I process slowly, perhaps you do too, and for me to make it through that time, I had to try and not process it all at once. Baby steps.
I had a love-hate relationship by then with the church. Well, hate is too strong a word. I never hated church. I did have a strong dislike for the amount of hurt I felt from church. I own my sensitive personality. I own that what church is supposed to be, create, and stand for is not, in fact, what hurt me. What did hurt me was poor leadership and insensitive people. Perhaps you can relate. In 2013, the church I had attended with my then-husband for the past seven years ended when he got a job at a church, and we had to attend where he was employed. It had been a good and bad ride for seven years at our home church. I had my ups and downs. When we parted ways, I was sad and ready. I’d been hurt over the years, I had wanted to leave before, and I’m glad we hadn’t. I think the timing might have been wrong. With a new opportunity on the horizon, I felt ready to step out.
What I hadn’t anticipated was stepping into a new role. How having a husband on staff at a church would make me feel. How invested and committed I became. It was hard and painful when it came crashing down five years later.
The years 2018 through 2020 held a lot of darkness for me. My community shifted drastically. We had several loved ones pass. My marriage, which had always felt rocky, fell to pieces. One large hole during that time: church. We tried, we really did try, to find a new church, and create a new community. In some ways, we did. In others, we were just butts in chairs. I held myself back. I wasn’t ready to commit and possibly get hurt again. I was feeling burnt out. I was also feeling unanchored. The ground I stood on felt like shifting sand. The ocean was rising, pulling me further in, and I wasn’t sure how to stop it.
You call me out upon the watersSongwriters: Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Lighthelm
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
It was during that 2013 time that everyone, everywhere, in the Christian community was singing Oceans by Hillsong. I remember the commentary, even then, coming out, asking us if we really knew what it was we were singing. I look at those lyrics now and see how the period of 2018-2022 was my time of being pulled out into that ocean, of not rising to the top on my faith but sinking into the darkness, the dormancy, the places where light can’t penetrate.
By the end of my divorce, I wanted nothing more than church and community. I tried to hold tight to my faith. What I was capable of was watching sermons and worship leaders on my TV or iPad while sitting on my couch or in bed drinking coffee, mostly alone. To be frank, it sucked. If I’m honest, I mostly felt a need to prove myself during all of that. To show the world, I had done the right thing by getting divorced. To show everyone, I still loved Jesus even though divorced people were sinners. To let everyone know that even those of us who messed up miserably could still find peace, joy, and happiness. The reality was we were all stuck in our homes, scared out of our wits, and I don’t think anyone cared that much about how my life was turning out. In the course of two-ish years, I’d been stripped down to the absolute bare bones.
During that time, I felt myself taking my faith apart piece by piece. I was grappling with what it was I believed. What had helped, what had hurt, what felt like lies, and what felt like absolute truth. The one thing COVID gave me was space. It felt easy to walk away from church when there was no building to walk out of. I wanted to ask the question if I walk away will it call me back?
Things take time.
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start nowSongwriters: Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Lighthelm
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
I still feel very much in the deep waters. I’m still wrestling and questioning and seeking. I’m trying to give myself the space and the grace to walk through it all. To keep showing up and asking the questions at the same time. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar place. Deconstructing a part of your life you held dear and held you in return. I don’t believe we can lose the things that have sustained us. The world is a shifting and changing place. While our lives may look vastly different, what our core is and who we are will always go with us.
The world went dark, and even in the darkness, we had the stars and moon to give us some light. In the dormancy that COVID gave to us, rebirth happened. I am feeling it, the pain, the growing, the bursting of new life. Creating something new is never easy. We see the beauty, and we need to acknowledge the struggle it is and was to bring something forth.
I’m continuing to let this deconstruction birth something new, beautiful, and stronger than what came before. I want to feel it deeper and know it better than I ever did before.